Authorities in Mexico have found dozens of mass graves and hundreds of bodies near the city of Iguala since September, when 43 students disappeared from a nearby town, and criminal activity has led to a mini-revolt in one village just as municipal elections approach.
The Attorney General’s Office (PGR) identified 50 mass graves and 85 bodies in the hills around Iguala, a city in Guerrero state, between October 2014 and April 2015, reported El Universal.
Searches in the area surrounding Iguala began after the disappearance of 43 university students in September. Another Mexican newspaper, El Financiero, reported that 170 clandestine graves and at least 286 bodies have been found in the area since September.
The government has yet to make a formal pronouncement on the latest bodies, but according to El Universal, the biggest finding was 11 graves where 39 bodies were exhumed.
Other bodies were discovered by a self-defense group known as the UPOEG, which mobilized in the aftermath of the massacre to find the missing students.
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The bodies of the 43 missing students — reportedly murdered by the criminal group Guerreros Unidos with the alleged involvement of a local mayor, his wife, and several police officers — have not been found. And while what became known as the Iguala massacre attracted international attention and enormous public outcry — especially due to the deep level of alleged state involvement — the fact that mass graves are still being discovered in Guerrero confirms that these kinds of killings are not isolated incidents.
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Indeed, another Guerrero town, Chilapa, is now reportedly caught in the middle of a struggle between two criminal groups, Los Rojos and Los Ardillos, and has seen rising violence in the run up to the June 7 elections. On May 1, a mayoral candidate was assassinated. Days later, a group of 300 armed citizens took over the town, stating that they would usurp public security functions from the municipal police.
Fractured, yet powerful criminal organizations continue to roil security in Guerrero. The state has at least four large criminal groups and a smattering of self-defense groups operating. There also are local, state and federal security forces.
Given the chaotic situation, identifying the bodies will be only the first step in trying to figure out who is responsible for the mass graves.